by Brenda K
AUTHOR'S NOTE:A very, very silly story featuring Mary Sue, courgettes, feather dusters, Cowley's office, Fiat Pandas and the ubiquitous warehouse. Oh, and Gavin (bless 'is cotton socks).. As for the beta-reader (the one in the story, not Birgit), any resemblance to living persons is - er - purely intentional. I'm taking the piss out of myself, OK? Particularly of my story "Observation" - another piece of sheer genius although perhaps not one to read with your boss looking over your shoulder.
The ending? Think 'pure of mind'. Or don't. Your choice.
And no, it's not a "Doyle dies" story. Not... really but I reserve the right to call it one if I feel like it, just to be included in lots of categories and win awards and be utterly insufferable and go on to be the next Hemingway (but you all know that).
Disclaimer: I only borrow these people and hope Brian Clemens, the other scriptwriters, the actors and the guy who wrote the theme tune have a sense of humour. I even apologise to David Wickes about any perfectly coincidental things that might recall another series involving CI5 that are mentioned in passing. Oh, and gerbils. Yes. Sorry, gerbils. The elf reference is for Elaine, with fondest love.
Read on, intrepid Pros fan. I shall send flames back with the grammar and spelling corrected, 'cos I can see mistakes that other people make if not my own. Beta readers rule OK, right? Gushing praise, however, is always welcome.
George Cowley cleared his throat.
"Gentlemen," he started.
"Can't be talkin' to us, then," Bodie remarked airily to Doyle, in an undertone. "Or it's bad news. It usually starts with 'now then, you two'. Or 'lads' if 'e's feelin' mellow."
"Och, stop it," Cowley sighed. "I have something of importance to tell you."
Both gentlemen attempted to look interested.
"CI5 is going international," Cowley said, with a very slight hint of what could be triumph, sarcasm, or surprise. Or indigestion.
"Eh?" Doyle said. "Now? Wasn't that planned for a bit later? When you're retired and we can quit fieldwork gracefully and eventually co-control CI5 while remaining devastatingly fit and handsome as we get older?"
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Bodie said, pulling in his stomach. "Although I've also heard rumours that they're thinking about having some weirdos with our call signs wearing Armani suits and Boss shirts and stuff. They wouldn't do that, though. Too expensive."
Cowley peered at Doyle's attire.
"Indeed. Marks & Spencer wouldn't hurt though, Doyle. Thrift, remember. No unnecessary trimmings. Good use of resources. And I'm damn sure your salary runs to jeans without patches."
"And there was talk about Japanese cars," Doyle put in suavely, fending off the familiar 'clothing' lecture. "I'm sure that was mentioned as well."
"Never," Cowley said firmly. "There are limits, and believe me there will never be one of those monstrosities used in CI5 as long as I'm here. But stop getting off the subject. We have hired our first agent from beyond this sceptred isle."
"Sceptred isle?" Doyle chuckled. "Who said that?"
"I did," Cowley said. "Or it was in one of the scripts anyway - can't remember if I said it or forgot that bit. Sounds nice. Now are you listening?"
"Always," Bodie nodded. "So who is it? We got somebody from the CIA? The Yanks are always good at co-financing. Or France? Ze exotic accent and ze Gallic charm. That could do wonders for the ratings."
"Argentina," Cowley told him. "Up and coming country, that."
Two pairs of eyes stared at him in disbelief.
"But we had a war with 'em only last year." Bodie stated the obvious.
"That may be, but their television industry is booming. Unlike some. Now, Miss... whatever her name was... is waiting to meet you."
"Miss? It's a bird?" Bodie displayed his remarkable talents of deduction but brightened up a little.
"Miss Maria Susanna Haefliger," Cowley nodded, opening a buff file on his desk.
"Good Argentinean name, that," Doyle remarked.
"Germans like the place," Bodie informed him. "Full of Krauts, Argentina."
"I knew that," Doyle protested. "Didn't."
"They could have called her Inge or Inger or Inga, just for a change while they were at it," Doyle muttered testily. "Thank goodness for small mercies."
"Och, stop it," Cowley said and then stabbed at one of the buttons on his telephone. "Tell her to come in, please."
The door swung open.
"Phoarr," Doyle said under his breath. He very nearly did the cheek-kissing thing, but appeared to decide that sort of thing was for foreign poofters. He gave her a stunning, chip-toothed grin. Trademarks were trademarks, after all.
Bodie's eyebrows shot up, and he hauled out the 'posh' accent and said 'how do you do'.
"Creep," Doyle muttered.
"Peasant," Bodie retorted.
Miss Haefliger acknowledged the greeting with a graceful toss of glossy dark hair and the tiniest of smiles. She was definitely attractive, and she knew it. The tight-fitting scarlet suit clung in all the right places, and was a whole lot more interesting than the wardrobe department for most female leads. Things were certainly changing from frilly blouses, full skirts and soft pastel colours, ergo not all changes were bad, Doyle decided.
"Delighted to meet you," a deep, husky voice said politely before its owner struck a casual poise - even more casual than Doyle's carefully practised one - against the nearest filing cabinet."
"I'll leave you to get acquainted," Cowley said dryly. "And tomorrow, you begin your new assignment together. It will be an operation Jennifer."
"Not Susie?" Bodie asked.
"Too complicated," Miss Haefliger gave her hair another toss. "Risk of confusion with my name if - as I hope will not be the case - you take to calling me by abbreviated versions of my name. Such as Mary Sue."
"Wouldn't dare," Doyle assured her. "C'mon darlin'. Fancy a cuppa?"
"Only if you have Broken Orange Pekoe," she said, turning on one extremely high heel. "No sugar. And not in those horrible mugs."
"Fancy stuff," Bodie said gloomily as Maria Susanna shimmied out of the room. "Think props do that, and some dinky little porcelain cups? Or will it be Tetley's in cracked freebies from the petrol station as usual?"
"Never know," Doyle said. "And if you ask me, those are bloody stupid shoes she's wearing for running after baddies with. Worse than those leather-soled numbers you used to wear with suits."
"At least I didn't slip up and change out of me plimsolls and into cowboy boots mid-scene," Bodie snorted. "And you're only jealous because it makes her taller than you. Without yer heels, anyway."
"Does not. And I've never stooped to wearing shirts with little hearts on."
"Does. And we'll have to cut that bit," Bodie informed him. "We were supposed to do more 'phoarr' stuff and say something about good legs? I mean she does have good legs. Got to give her that."
"I improvised," Doyle sighed. "We overran on the bit about the Japanese cars anyway, when the Cow nearly went apoplectic. Oh, and she's got good tits as well. And that suit she was wearing definitely didn't come from Marks and Sparks, product placement or not. Besides, even M&S isn't that British these days. Says "made in Brazil" on me underpants."
"What d'you want?" Bodie sighed. "He could have said Woollies. Or a charity shop. And you can actually get underpants under those jeans?"
Doyle just smirked. Bodie tried very hard not to investigate Doyle's rump for signs of the dreaded Visible Panty Line.
"Not bad, this," Doyle peered around the cocktail bar. "Improvement on the VIP lounge anyway."
"They're using that in Coronation Street this week," Bodie told him. "Just hope they've remembered not to fill the glasses with cold tea again. Ah, here she comes."
Maria Susanna arrived, still elegant from her immaculate coiffure to the tips of another pair of high heels, and was now dressed in extremely tight jeans without a panty line to be seen, plus a clingy sweater.
"So," said Bodie, trying hard to remember the mass of information and clearly trying to look at her face and not at other parts of her anatomy. "You've got three PhDs..."
"Four. Everybody forgets the one in Forensic Pathology."
"Sorry. Maybe they're too gobsmacked by those in Criminal Psychology, Higher Math and Anthropology, love," Doyle said sympathetically. "And we've got that Yank on the scriptwriters again. It's Maths. With an S. We'll be saying 'gotten' and 'elevators' next."
Bodie ignored that, and placed a cocktail on the table in front of the vision of loveliness.
"And of course you're a former Olympic marathon champion, speak 19 languages without an accent, and excel in undercover work as a Sardinian shepherd or a Russian boxer," Doyle added helpfully.
"You've done your homework, Mr. Doyle."
"Always," Doyle lied, keeping the hastily written crib sheet in his hand out of sight. "But I was particularly impressed about your... other skills. Not the cunning linguist stuff but..."
"Oh, you mean sex?" She smiled prettily, the dimple showing. "Nothing to it, really."
"I can imagine," Bodie agreed. "D'you specialise?"
"If necessary. Why, what were you thinking? I should give a demonstration?"
"Have to be careful about that, love," Bodie said. "We've got rules here, y'know. It's a family show. We can have quick arse shots of Doyle getting out of bed or see my bellybutton when I'm doing the fancy exercises, but that was just because we needed to keep the fans happy."
Doyle muttered something darkly which seemed to include the word 'paunch', which Bodie pretended not to hear, but pulled in his stomach again.
"Censorship. Right," Maria Susanna nodded knowingly. "Strange habits, you British. In Argentina, we..."
"Fight over small, sparsely-populated islands." The soldier in Bodie reared its head.
"We are a little more liberal," she continued, ignoring the taunt with consummate skill.
"Look, love, with Maggie Thatcher and Barbara Whitehouse around, it's not difficult to be 'more' liberal", Doyle said, demonstrating his in-depth knowledge of British politics.
"Exactly," CI5's newest agent nodded. "Although for the sake of not having to choose, I personally thought the best solution would be a thr..."
"Shhhhh," Bodie's eyes widened in horror. "You can't say threesomes. Don't even think threesomes. Not with two men anyway. People might think all the wrong things about me 'n Doyle."
"Absolutely," Doyle nodded. "Got to be very, very careful about that. Avoid it at all costs. Subtle references to our undying devotion to each other - Bodie and I, that is - are OK. We can cry when each other gets hurt, or we can risk our lives for each other and get frantic when one of us goes missing or stuff like that. But it can't be... well... "
"Although there'll always be some people who insist that we're a lot more than just mates," Bodie added ruefully. "Funny that, really. Don't all men pat each other on the bum now and then?"
"Need to think about that," Doyle frowned. "But as we've not had any complaints yet..."
"Shall we get down to business?" Maria Susanna interrupted. "We have an international ring of pornography writers to catch, remember."
"We still haven't sorted out who gets to... y'know," Bodie complained. "With you. And if I'm counting right, Doyle's out ahead. He's had the one with too much makeup, the Chinese one, the air hostess..."
"Wrong," Doyle waggled a finger. "You got Marikka, Inger, and several frilly-bloused ones if I remember. So it's my turn again."
"Hola! Stop it."
"Hola?" Doyle said. "Doesn't that mean hello? I mean even I know that. What sort of language advisers have we got this time?"
"Well it sounds Portuguese," she pouted.
"They speak Spanish in Argentina," Doyle pointed out haughtily. "Or German..."
"Oh for cryin' out loud," Maria Susanna's accent mutated to broad Cockney. "Same difference, mate. You honestly think yer average viewer gives a flying..."
"Careful," Bodie warned.
"Of course." Maria Susanna once again adopted her efficient pose and dubious Latin accent. "So, where shall we start?"
"At the warehouse, of course," Bodie said wearily. "Let's face it - it was a choice between that and the water tower. And just in case they ever do get to show the episode about the spades..."
"Bodie!" Doyle's eyes flashed.
"About the coloured gentlemen, I mean, we can't use that again. So it's back to the warehouse with different camera angles."
"Fine, fine. We can take my car. I am of course an excellent driver."
"No way, love" Doyle said firmly. "Besides, they've repaired mine now after we messed up on that 'how many inches' thing. And I haven't lost it for weeks."
"It ran out of petrol," Bodie murmured. "And they forgot to fill it. But apparently one of the lads in the camera crew have something suitable, as long as we don't do any handbrake turns, he says. Italian, even."
"Right then," Doyle said, grinning suddenly. "Lamborghini? Maserati? Ferrari?"
"Fiat Panda," Maria Susanna said calmly. "But don't worry. I'm a fully qualified mechanic, by the way. Including making fan belts out of my tights - better than head gaskets out of lino, that."
"Amazing," Doyle shook his head. "Was that before or after the black belt in judo?"
"After judo, but before karate and feng shui."
"Feng shui?" Bodie said. "Never heard of that one."
"Interior decorating, Chink style," Doyle said laconically.
"Is. Who's the expert on everything Chinese, then? Remember the yellow plastic mac and you not having to shave... that give you a clue? What was her name again?"
"Esther," Bodie nodded. "And that was Hong Kong, which isn't China - or not yet anyway. But she was from Clapham, remember. Spent hours trying to get that bit of Chinese out without all the extras who were real Chinks cracking up..."
"She did 'er best," Doyle argued. "Can't all be naturals like me an the Sath Effrican accent."
"Oh, I know that, my lad," Bodie said with a huge wink. "Quite the little raver, you said, that girl from Cape Town you practised it with. And I do remember Esther had her merits as well. Very creative with all that fruit from the stall, right? Not to mention courgettes and that feather duster..."
"Good gracious!" A pair of brown eyes widened. "You mean it's all right to make dodgy references to kinky stuff, yet no threesomes?"
"We meant she made lovely fruit salads, steamed courgettes like a dream, and kept the place spotless," Doyle said airily.
"Like hell," Maria Susanna said.
"You've just got a dirty mind, love," Bodie said cheerfully. "I tell you, the way people interpret stuff..."
"Basta!" Maria Susanna said, with a ladylike trace of irritation. "And sod it if that's Italian. Sounds nice. And actually, to get back onto my qualifications, which are extremely important, feng shui has a huge future ahead of it. I mean, if you don't have your bed in the right place..."
"Have a drink, love," Bodie prompted wickedly. "Or we'll stray back on to sex again."
Slender fingers picked up the glass, and glossy red lips took a ladylike sip.
"What the fuck is that?"
"I'd say Harvey Wallbanger, but that has all the wrong connotations and I strongly suspect it's cold tea. Mind, we'll have to do that bit again anyway. You're supposed to say 'here's to us, boys' and bat your eyelashes."
Doyle sighed gustily, not even cheered up by the sight of Maria Susanna in elegantly tailored combats.
"I tell you, I never want to see this warehouse again. Enough to turn you into a television surgeon or something."
"Picky, aren't we. And in ten seconds from now, you get to utter that immortal phrase 'cover me'."
"Same old, same old. But I'm glad she changed her shoes. Wouldn't like 'er to break a leg or anything."
"C'mon, it would give you a bit more practice in the hospital stuff. Right, we ready?"
"Ready," Doyle nodded.
"And no jogging slowly just because they can speed up the film a bit later. That's cheating."
"It's not me that got out of breath running for a grenade and then missing the bin you were supposed to throw it in five times in a row, now is it?"
"Run," Bodie said darkly. "Sooner we get this bit over with we should be able to cut to the next bit - and my money's still on me being the one to get 'er out of those clothes and into a little international entente. Unless you've been bribing the scriptwriters."
Doyle's eyes widened in innocence.
"Yeah. You got out of the chimney climb like that..."
"Only because you got wardrobe to insist on the checked jacket with the rugby shirt."
Sighing, Doyle took a deep breath and ran.
A shot rang out, followed by several more.
Maria Susanna emerged from a pile of crates, swinging her hips and smiling.
"I got all three."
"Did not," Bodie protested as he went over there. "How about one each?"
"Doyle was at the wrong angle. And besides..."
"You're a superb marksman... woman... person. Whatever," Bodie snapped. "Just as long as you left one of them alive."
"But naturally. I need to demonstrate my outstanding interrogation techniques."
"That before you hit the sack with me, or after?"
Doyle had sauntered over, and casually pointed at her gun. "And let's hope nobody noticed you forgot to take the safety catch off if you're supposed to be the one that shot 'em."
"Sarky. And we should celebrate this, Maria," Bodie said smoothly. "Posh restaurant, no expenses spared."
"I'm afraid not," Maria Susanna said airily. "I asked Mr. Cowley..."
"Cowley?" both voices expressed horrified shock.
"If it could be Mr. Murphy. Not to do it with dear old George, don't be silly. Perish the thought. He's busy with that Walsh woman anyway."
"Murphy!" The choral speaking continued.
"Murphy. I mean he's got such class. And he's taking me out to dinner."
"Bloody hell," Doyle said. "Nothing for it then, Bodie - we'll have to hit the chippy and watch the footie."
"That's your problem," Maria Susanna said condescendingly. "You need more... je ne sais quoi."
"Bollocks," Bodie said pleasantly. "And take it from me, Murph might come over all glamorous, but if Ruthie ever finds out, watch your back, love."
"I would make mincemeat of her," Maria Susanna retorted.
"Not with the safety catch on, although you could do a bit of damage with those heels, I suppose. And she might not be good at feng shui, but she's a tad possessive about our Murph. You need somebody footloose and fancy free," Doyle informed her. "And I have something you can't resist cooked up for you at home."
"Spaghetti la Benny again," Bodie warned her. "You can bet your bottom dollar."
"Spaghetti?" Maria Susanna's eyes lit up. "I love spaghetti. How did you know? I'll just re-schedule Murphy."
Bodie groaned. Then had a final thought.
"Who were the guys anyway?"
"No idea," Doyle shrugged. "What do you expect? A plot that makes sense?"
Doyle opened the door to Bodie wearing his dressing gown.
"Mornin'" Bodie said mock-cheerfully, scanning the flat and scowling as he identified high-heeled satin slippers on the rug.
"Coffee?" Doyle said. "Maria made it. Jamaica Blue Mountain, medium ground. And there must be a croissant or two left and some French unsalted butter..."
Bodie sniffed contemptuously but the cholesterol urge was obviously still governing his reactions.
"Good, was she?" he managed between mouthfuls while watching Doyle teasing his hair into place.
"Amazin', ta. She'll be right with us. Just finishin' 'er early mornin' yoga and we can be off once I've nipped off to put me jeans on. That look all right?"
"Perm's growing out," Bodie said casually.
"Shaggy's in. Maria said so. 'Lo darlin!"
This time, the vision of loveliness was wearing a severe black suit and her hair was swept into an equally severe chignon.
"Nice," Doyle grinned. "But nicer out of it."
"Rub it in, why don't you," Bodie muttered, snatching the last croissant. "Go on then. Get yer togs on. Do the usual stuff of lying on the floor so's you can pull the zip up."
"At least I can pull the zip up..."
"Boys, boys," Maria purred. "Don't fight. Although it really does a girl's ego good. Now let's get going. We have to check out the baddies' boss. Some snarky woman who insists that writing porn is in the national interest."
"Can't have that," Bodie agreed. "Off you go, sunshine. What's with the suit, Maria?"
"I am posing as the Inland Revenue to infiltrate the organisation. You will be my backup."
"We don't do backup," Doyle protested. "That's for girls. Susan, or Ruthie at a pinch."
"Times will change. Mark my words. Backup indeed - they'll be actually calling somebody Backup next instead of giving the poor cow a name!" Maria Susanna said with irritation, tapping her fingernails on the counter.
"Can't win 'em all," Doyle said thoughtfully. "Although you can't complain. Thanks to you, love, we've got extra glamour, so just leave it up to Bodie 'n me to chuck a few powerful emotions in, and Bob's yer uncle."
"UNCLE?" Bodie said. "Now that was something. As in 'Man From'. Remember..."
"UNCLE was ridiculous," Maria snapped, throwing Doyle a strange look. "If you want a role model, think of the Champions with that blonde girl who actually did something. And you think I'm only here for the glamour?"
"Oops," Bodie said, smugly. "Don't worry darlin'. I'm sure he'll see the error of his ways. C'mon Doyle, you going to get dressed or not today?"
Doyle frowned, aware he might have made something of a mistake just before. Bodie's eyes had the rather irritating twinkle they always had when he was up to no good.
"Freeze," Maria Susanna commanded.
"Don't move, please," Murphy added, for the sake of politeness and because it sounded more British.
The middle-aged woman looked up from her desk in sheer astonishment.
"Is this one of those 'This is your life' things? You're not from the Inland Revenue after all?"
"Afraid not," Maria Susanna said, settling herself on the desk and crossing her legs. "It's all over. Hand us your manuscripts and nobody'll get hurt."
"The... my manuscripts? You must be mistaken! I'm not the brains behind all this - I'm just a humble beta reader in my spare time, when I'm not working on the till at Sainsburys!"
"Trite," Doyle muttered from his hiding place outside the window. "Very trite, although they're obviously still working on getting product placement in."
"Talk!" Maria Susanna snapped.
"I'm talking, all right? Give me a chance. So which manuscripts are you looking for? The ones from the woman who writes sentimental crap, those from the one who can't spell, the ones who use long words but not always in the right place, or the bits by the woman who never finishes anything? Or the one who's guilty of the whole lot? Oh, but of course. Silly me. You must be after the ones who write gay porn! "
"That's them," Murphy said grimly and ungrammatically. "Hand 'em over. And I shall need to read 'em to make a full assessment and trace 'em back to the perpetrator."
"Perpetrator?" Bodie's eyes rolled. "Blood and sand. Big words are catching."
"'Pervert' would be more appropriate," Doyle added. Perpetrator is also American. I tell you..."
"Shut it, both of you," Murphy glared. "This is my bit, and God knows I don't get many."
"Give 'im a chance, Bodie," Doyle sighed. "Sorry, Murph. Where were we?"
"... and trace it back to the pervert. Perpetrator. Damn. And as for the reading, somebody's got to do it."
"So selfless," Doyle sneered, fortunately outside Murphy's earshot.
"Absolutely." Maria Susanna laid a well-manicured hand on Murphy's arm. "But don't worry, Gavin, we can do dinner on Friday."
Bodie grinned. Doyle frowned.
"She thought the poor guy should have a first name," Bodie said. "And she says Gavin sounds sexy."
"Jesus wept," Doyle moaned. "Maybe he should be lucky she's not turned on by Torquil. Or Jos. Or... Albert. Or Ernest. Or..."
"Shhh," Bodie scolded. "Listen."
"Only Friday?" Murphy said, obviously confused.
"After the funeral."
"Funeral?" Doyle said to Bodie in a furious half-whisper. "Whose funeral?"
"Ah." Bodie hesitated. "I was going to talk to you about that. But it was your idea - all the powerful emotions and stuff you were talking about."
"Go on." Doyle glared. "And?"
"Be patient, old son."
"WHOSE FUNERAL?" Doyle insisted. "I mean it's not her or Murphy, and it can't be you or me, because..."
Then the shot rang out. Bodie whirled, returned fire, and then slowly dropped his arm.
"What the fuck is going on?" Doyle snapped.
"You're dead. So's the author who was lurking around hassling her beta reader. Serves her right. We'll have to do slo-mos of the impact later, like we did with the milk bottle, by the way," Maria Susanna said cheerfully, strolling outside. "And cut and paste the funeral bit afterwards, but that shouldn't be a problem.
"Dead," Bodie said, trying to look mournful but failing miserably. "You did want out of the contract, remember."
"I am not dead."
"Stop it," Maria Susanna shouted. "I'm rather afraid you are, Doyle. Powerful emotions, see. And it's a very, very clever idea and fits in with the plot beautifully so far. I'll be heartbroken, remembering our one brief night of passion. Bodie and Murphy can console me. Bodie will manfully hold back the tears..."
"You are joking. And this was your idea, right?" Doyle jabbed Bodie in the chest. "And she's in on it as well, I bet. Even Murph. Or should I say Gavin."
"Killed two birds with one stone," Bodie said glibly. "You move on to new and better and infinitely more serious things beyond the wonderful world of CI5. And of course you go out as a hero - we'll put that bit in later - might even have you throwing yourself in front of me..."
"NO way would I..."
"Let me finish, right? And if we get to do another series, we can have a torrid love triangle with Mary Sue and Murph and me."
"Oh, for Christ's sake," Doyle moaned. "It sounds like a bloody soap opera, not an all-action extravaganza."
"Have to move with the times. And it could be worse - they could bring in a couple of poofters in to play Cowley's finest and drive Japanese cars. Mind, 'e's threatening to get out of it as well. I think the idea of Nissans and Toyotas hit him hard."
From furious, Doyle thought about all this for a bit, then chuckled softly.
"Bloody 'ell. I do hope they've got extra staff in to deal with 'alf of England's female population sobbing their 'earts out 'cause I've snuffed it."
"Never know your luck," Bodie nodded as the suddenly forgotten keeper of manuscripts approached with a beatific smile.
"I've got quite a few writers into death stories. I'll get some of them onto some new, post-episode stuff right away. It's been done a couple of times before though. Doyle dying, that is. Lots of really syrupy hospital scenes..."
"Don't I get one of those?" Doyle asked. "I mean that's the least they could do..."
"Nope," Bodie sighed. "Too expensive to film in intensive care units these days. I think we'll just use some old footage - me having flashbacks to the good old days during your funeral."
Doyle sighed deeply.
"I reserve the right to choose scenes where the angles are good though, right?"
Maria Susanna rolled her eyes.
"Not only that, but an audition for some Shakespeare stuff and for some bizarre, offbeat but incredibly arty films," Bodie said helpfully. "Serious stuff."
"Fair enough," Doyle said eventually. "Shall I just go over there and die, then?"
"Sounds like a plan," Bodie nodded. "Head and shoulders only, I think. Somebody forgot the fake blood."
"Typical. You going to hold my hand, Maria? Do I get a few last words?"
"Could be arranged, I suppose."
"Yep, but do it quick as we're running out of film," a disembodied voice called.
Doyle took a deep breath and staggered, falling bonelessly to the floor, deciding that opportunities - even last ones - should not be missed. Few, very few, did bonelessly like he did.
"And a certain channel had better not snip this bit when they do re-runs," Doyle opened his eyes again briefly. "OK... here we go..."
"DAMN!" Maria Susanna cursed as she darted forward and then stumbled. "I've broken my bloody heel. These shoes cost a bloody fortune..."
"Oh, for crying out loud," Doyle sighed. "What a bloody fuck-up."
"That'll do," Bodie nodded. "Very much in character, although they'll have to replace fuck-up with fiasco when they work on the sound, I think. Anybody for a beer?"
"Champagne," Maria Susanna said firmly. "Definitely. And we have lots of things to talk about. We need to soup up the theme tune, by the way. And as for you boys," she pointed at Bodie and Murphy, "you both need a revamp. Murphy needs a haircut and narrower lapels. Bodie needs to lose that paunch and the horrible mustard cardigan thing. Or maybe you should just retire gracefully. Get some new blood in..."
"Eh?" Bodie stared. "For heaven's sake... that wasn't the idea..."
"Should have thought about that earlier," Maria Susanna said brightly. "And that'll teach you to underestimate somebody of my calibre. Did I say I was currently studying for a PhD in advanced media trends?"
"Stuff it where you put the feng-shui," Doyle muttered darkly. "Give you half a chance and they'll be turning it all into a historical drama next."
"Ooooh," said the beta-reader. "That's been done as well. And starship captains. And elves. Lots of those. Personally, I'm not that fond of seeing you both as gerbils, but..."
"Gerbils?" Bodie's eyes widened. "As in..."
"Long tails, twitchy noses. Oversexed gerbils for that matter," Murphy looked up from the manuscript he was leafing through. "Fascinating stuff, mind, and I'm an extraordinarily handsome gerbil too. And personally I'd rather have than than the ones where I'm shacked up with Bodie - apparently there's a few of those around as well. Nothing personal, mate but I do prefer Ruthie..."
"Drink," Bodie said weakly. "I need a drink. Not cold tea. Not tea of any sort, whether it's Broken Orange Pekoe or anything else. And then I'm going to wring your scrawny neck, Mary Sue. You're a bloody steamroller."
"'Course I am," Maria Susanna said cheerfully. "That's the whole idea, innit?"
"It is?" Doyle said bleakly.
"Definitely. Now, I wonder if we can get Robert Redford in for the next series? Or that hunk that does those boxing films? Think he could do a British accent?"
"No," Doyle shook his head, but she wasn't listening.
"And I need to get a new wardrobe designer. And a full-time hairdresser. Oh, and..."
"Much more," Bodie said acidly, "and I'll set one of the syrupy writers onto you. And you'll have to marry me. Or Murph. Or Cowley."
"You wouldn't!" Maria Susanna squeaked.
"Try us," Doyle said primly, turning to the beta reader. "Could it be done?"
"Definitely. You want the bad spelling, lousy plot...?"
"The works," Bodie said. "Definitely the works. You can resurrect Doyle..."
"Lose Bodie's paunch..." Doyle said generously.
"... give me a sensible name..." Murphy chipped in.
"And throw in a threesome," Doyle said.
"With... her?" The woman looked over at a sadly deflated Maria Susanna.
Doyle's eyes flickered over to Bodie and Murphy.
"I'll leave that one up to the author, love. Just make sure I get a copy."
-- THE END --